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Impact of COVID-19 on Handicraft Sector

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

India is one of the largest global markets for the handicrafts sector, with exports crossing over INR 120 billion, in the year 2019 alone. Even in a fast-paced digitalized world, the demand for Indian Handicrafts hasn’t been shaken. However, Indian Handicrafts sector is struggling to weather the storm of COVID-19, since January 2020. The fate of Indian artisans is similar to that of migrant workers, and managing day-to-day life has become more difficult than ever for Indian artisans community. 

With dwindling resources and a bleak future, Indian artisans are struggling on breadline to stifle these times. Nonetheless, the Indian artisan’s community is very resilient, and are slowly adapting to the new normal of working from their native homes – without trade fairs or meals, and navigating their way to making inter-state sales over online platforms. Here’s how COVID-19 has struck the Indian Handicrafts sector, and how the artisan’s community is fighting it back. 

The damaged supply chain 

Indian Handicrafts sector depends heavily on smooth supply chain structures, where raw materials are sourced from different places, production is carried out in bits and parts for few handicraft items, and finally these products are pushed for sales. In the wake of the COVID-19 situation, this supply chain has been disrupted largely. The nation-wide lockdown has caused barriers to the supply of raw materials, and artisans are struggling to make do with the leftover raw materials. 

The production cycle of most of these raw materials are lengthy ones, and that’s only making it hard for the artisans community. However, the silver lining is that artisans are slowly adapting to this situation, and finding new replacements to raw materials, making some of their own. The goal is to not stop producing. Although there is no active market for Indian Handicrafts products at the time, the artisans community are hopeful that it’ll rise back again soon, and they want to be ready with all they’ve got by that time. 

No exhibitions or trade fairs 

The inter-state travel ban and nation wide lockdowns has posed a complete shutdown on trade fairs and exhibitions. Coping with the losses of cancelled tickets and bookings is one thing, being uncertain on when things are going to get back on track is another. Some artisans have totally put a halt on their businesses, and are waiting by for the COVID storm to pass. 

While some others are quick to adapt. Instead of lamenting over their broken fate, they’re changing what they produce, and trying to make day-to-day items of functional use in an artistic manner and selling it using online portals. Akkaara is one such platform that is selling Indian Handicrafts products with its new avatar, where most of the online handicrafts items are of functional use. 

New products for the COVID world 

While the artisans community, like many other communities, are waiting for the storm to pass, they’re showing their sheer resilience by making new products for covid struck world. The hands that weaved, and did embroidery are making beautiful masks, gloves and more, to support a COVID hit world. 

As a responsible community, supporting the government’s ‘Atma Nirbharta’ initiative, we can extend our best support to these communities by purchasing their products online, and help create sustainable livelihoods for the artisans community. 

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